Why Does Acne Make Me Feel So Trapped?

One of the reasons that acne makes me feel so trapped (ala Monday’s post) is that I realize I’ve always been a bit addicted to the feeling of total and complete freedom.

Basically, I hate commitments and I love unstructured free time.

I don’t know if that’s exactly weird… I’m guessing most people would prefer to have fewer commitments in their life. But I REALLY don’t like having a lot of things that I feel like I have to do. I never have.

Growing up, I chose to partake in very few extra curricular activities, because I didn’t like the idea of having a schedule – a commitment – that I was to adhere to week after week. I was definitely not the type of person that you’d see on 3 different sports teams, with an after school job, and as head of the yearbook committee.

My adult life has been spent in fits and spurts – sure, I have no problem keeping a job. I am a very good employee! I show up to work on time and rarely, if ever, miss a day for any reason.

But I have never ever had a job that was an ongoing commitment for more than 5 or 6 months at a time (aside from The Love Vitamin! which is kind of a different story because I love it so much, but even commitment to this can be a struggle at times…) The only reason I could bare the idea of showing up to a job day after day is so that I could save enough money to quit and have a period of complete freedom. 

Extended, unstructured travel is the ultimate in complete freedom. You’ve saved your money, you’ve quit your job. For a period of time, there are zero commitments…. the world is your oyster! You can go anywhere, do anything, and meet anyone you want to.

The idea is exhilarating to me. Which is why I’ve done a fair bit of travelling in my life.

Australia

Cambodia

Laos

Malaysia

New Zealand

Japan

San Francisco

London

Ireland

The Berlin Wall

The Sahara Desert (Morocco)

Not to toot my own horn, but… you know. I’ve seen some cool stuff. And I’m not quite ready to quit… I still want to go to India, the Middle East, South America, and East Africa!

But the vast majority of this traveling I’ve done was before my stint with severe acne. Yes, I had mild acne, but I didn’t have the fear back then. Acne annoyed me, but it didn’t scare me. Now acne scares me a lot.

I use my healthy lifestyle to control that fear. You could say that I use my healthy lifestyle to control my acne, but I don’t. I use it to control my fear.

If I went on an extended trip, there’s no way I could eat the same healthy way I do at home. Even I put a lot of effort into trying to eat good food while abroad, I still couldn’t eat nearly as well without a crazy amount of not-worth-it stress involved.

I believe that this is the reason that I get into the pattern with my acne that I described in Monday’s post. I let myself go with the food for a while, I don’t break out at first, so I think ‘sweet! I’m FREEEE’. And then I break out (probably because I was thinking about it so much), and cry.

I believe the reason that I do this is because deep down, I really, really, really hope that my acne is emotional, or stress based, and not solely diet related. Because if it’s not diet related, that means that if I somehow am able to just let go of the fear, then it means that I could once again find that sense of total and complete freedom.

I could travel the world and eat whatever I wanted, and all I had to do was be HAPPY :D and so therefore I’d also have no acne (or very little acne), and no fear, and wheeee. Life would be yay! Puppies and unicorns!

So yeah.

I test myself to see what will happen. Eating healthy to keep the acne under wraps when I’m at home is all find and dandy. It isn’t too difficult. But I want to see what would happen if I were away from home, not in control of my food. Would I still break out?

But the test itself is stressful, so that creates acne, which then confirms my fears that I really can’t leave home and eat unhealthy, even if it was actually the stress and not the food that caused it.

It’s such a weird, stupid, annoying, convoluted paradox that goes around in circles.

Fear –> Feeling like I’m trapped and will never be free —> leads to stress —> leads to acne —> more stress —> more fear —> more feeling like I’m trapped —-> la la la

I sometimes think I can do it. I psyche myself up and say YAH! I can go on this trip! I can stop worrying. It all sounds great until you’re there in the midst of it and it all creeps back up on you.

It’s like reading books about self help and happiness. It all seems so easy when you’re reading it. You think ‘yeah. The answer to everything. Just be happy and positive. Live in the moment. I can be happy and positive. I can live in the moment. I can do that.’

Oh it sounds so easy, but it’s just not! You maybe achieve it for a day or two and then you fall right back into your old patterns. At least I do.

Why I think Loss of Freedom Is Like my Phantom Limb

The reason I think that this is is my major feeling of loss that accompanies my acne fear is because of an incident that occurred way back when:

Once I got clear from my severe acne, I stayed completely clear for about… 2 months.

And then I got my first pimple. Just one. It pretty much destroyed me though. I was so orthorexic and crazy about my food back then that it was just completely devastating. What else could I do? I felt like I couldn’t possibly improve my diet anymore.

It was a sucky place to be in. I felt like my oppressively strict way of eating had completely robbed me of any freedom. The idea of unfettered travel was out the window. I think a lot of the excitement that I used to feel for the future had kind of died because the freedom was gone. The hope was gone.

Yet as crazy as it sounds – I was so utterly horrified of the idea of severe acne, that somehow, this situation seemed a million times better.

So anyway… at this point, I started thinking that maayyybeee my acne really did have something to do with my emotional health. May as well look into it, there wasn’t anything else I could do.

The reason I had ignored the possibility previously was because I really couldn’t think of anything particularly traumatic that had happened to me when my acne got so bad. So I felt like it must be completely hinged on my diet.

That was until I hung out with my ex boyfriend, the one I had been with and broke up with shortly after my severe acne episode. We had broken up completely mutually, there were no hard feelings on either end, and we were still friends. He came to town one day, and we hooked up… because why not (don’t tell me you’ve never hooked up with your ex! lol).

And unexpectedly, I felt awful afterwards. I felt CRAZY afterwards. I cried so hard on the way home, like I was on a rollercoaster. And I wasn’t sure why. It’s not like we fought or anything.

After that, I put two and two together.

I had some pretty major self esteem issues going on when I was with him. We were very different people with different tastes and I felt totally ‘imperfect’ because I couldn’t be his perfect woman. Even though I didn’t love him and he wasn’t my perfect man either. I guess I just wanted to be everything to everyone, and it killed me when I couldn’t be. Impossible.

Anyway, as a result, being with him did a total number on my self esteem – or at least brought the issue to the surface.

Literally.

No WONDER I broke out so badly then!

It was such a eureka moment. Like I had solved a riddle. I understood what had happened.  Like I didn’t have to be trapped anymore. I wasn’t with him anymore, so I could now be free. Freedom was possible! And suddenly I felt overwhelming hope like I hadn’t felt in months.

And like magic, the mild acne I was having cleared up. Wow.

Um… but then two weeks later, I actually did go traveling to California to reunite with my current love, Luke, and I got so stressed out about not eating exactly the way I wanted, that I broke out quite significantly the entire month we were gone.

Damn.

Freedom given, but I hadn’t learned to live it.

I Want to Learn to Live It!

Man, everytime I write something like this, it just seems so obvious what my problems are and how they relate to my acne. Just stop stressing out and it’ll go away!!

It’s obvious: I have self esteem issues because I want to be perfect. I want to be sexy and grown up and desirable in the eyes of others. Acne majorly threatens that. Therefore, acne scares the living daylights out of me and that fear takes away my hope for freedom by keeping me veiled in it. Which makes me really sad and perpetuates the cycle.

It always just feels so simple … like one little push… one little ledge I have to jump over… and I really can be free. It all sounds so silly like there is nothing to it. I know the problem, just get over it. Just do it. The fear is all in my head.

How could I let a few pimples stop me from traveling and having the most amazing experiences of my life? It all sounds so crazy!

Acne isn’t keeping me from doing ANYTHING. All I have to do is just let it go. LET GO! LET GO OF MY UNATTAINABLE IMAGE OF PERFECTION. LOVE MYSELF.

Gosh, it sounds so easy.

Why is it so hard?

One day I’ll fully get there. I know it. I’ve already come leaps and bounds from where I was in the memory described above. Thanks for supporting me on this journey (and listening to my rambles!) :)

photo by bob.fornal

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Comments

  1. Jesse says

    Thank you. Thank you so much. You say what I’m thinking and I’m so happy to be able to relate to you about acne, freedom, travel and health. Urg! :)

  2. Jesse says

    I’m going to Iceland the fifth of august for a month. I feel like I’ll be struggling but I can’t! I know I won’t eat as healthy, but stress is such a big factor.

  3. Nathan says

    I absolutely love your blog – looking through your photos in this post brought me much happiness. I never travel – I’ve only been to Spain and the Caribbean which was 4 years ago and seeing you in London made me tingle LOL.

    I can totally relate to acne making oneself feel so trapped but for me, it has helped shape the person I am and the way I look at life, which yes, is mainly diet based but also lifestyle!

    Tracy, I believe you can escape this feeling of being trapped – following you for around a year it is clear how much you have grown and learnt. Perhaps a break from the blog would help? Easier said then done and it would be strange not reading from you 3 times a week but it’s about yourself as much as us.

    Lots of love

    • Tracy says

      Hi Nathan – I have thought about that perhaps the only true way I could escape acne, or at least the incessant thoughts about it, is by stopping the blog, since it does continually keep my mind on acne. But it’s a predicament to be sure! Someone mentioned this on Monday’s post, and I replied with this:

      “Yes, I have considered it. I often wonder if having it is a help or a hindrance to me – it’s great because I get to journal out all my acne frustrations and get lots of excellent feedback (and helping other people makes me feel pretty awesome as well).

      On the other hand, I do think I put a lot of pressure on myself to have perfect skin because I’m the ‘guru’, and of course, having the blog constantly forces me to think about acne, and how to get rid of acne, and makes it really hard to get my thoughts away from it, as I said in this article. I also, at times, really dislike being so tied to the computer and the internet. I often wish I could just get rid of the internet altogether.

      However, it’s definitely an added complication that the blog is also my business now and if I decided to stop it, I’d have to come up with a new way to make a living. So far I don’t have any ideas for alternatives, so that’s kind of scary :/

      Sometimes… well actually, often, I think that one of the emotional reasons I can’t get seem to rid of acne is because it benefits me, in a way. If I had perfect skin and didn’t have any more emotional issues in regards to acne, then I am afraid that it’s highly unlikely I would have much interest in this blog. What would I write about?

      Every time I write a blog post, I try to write about something that comes from my sincere heart – whether it’s a food concept I’m currently excited about, or an emotional issue I’m having… I hate writing about things just because I have to write ‘something’. I want them to come from a place of inspiration. It’s hard to envision that if I didn’t have a problem with acne anymore that my endless enthusiasm for the blog would continue – and there goes my business.

      Yeah, it’s sort of a weird concept. It’s like… I hate acne…. but somehow I do know that I may have to stop the blog in order to really be free of it because otherwise it just serves me too much…. … so who knows. I have always assumed the blog couldn’t go forever and it would only be a matter of time before it all just played itself out. In the end it’ll either be: I cure my acne for real and lose interest, or, I don’t, and just completely run out of things to talk about.

      I don’t feel ready to move on from the blog, but I know the time will come. Who knows when that will happen, or what will happen after it. I need to just open myself to the universe and allow things to flow on the path they are meant to take, I suppose.”

      • Rhi says

        Hey Tracey,

        Why not evolve your blog a little (a la Fran from High on Health) to be not so acne focused, more overall wellbeing, spiritual, yogic, etc? Could be worth a try – you would get to keep your income/business yet it may help you think less about your skin?

        Best wishes!

        • Tracy says

          Hi Rhi – actually, I have planned to do that from the beginning, as I knew there would be a time that I was exhausted of talking of acne. That’s why I purposely didn’t name the site anything to do with acne.

          I’m not sure I’m ready to do that though – for one, the risk of pointedly changing the focus is that I have no idea how that would actually affect the business… and I currently only make enough money just to feel comfortable.. it’s okay though because I don’t feel exhausted of acne quite yet. And I feel I have a ton of creative license even within the acne niche :)

          In fact, I plan to be talking a ton about self development and growing spiritually over the next while (as opposed to food etc), as I take you through my journey of trying to overcome my emotional acne issues once and for all! So that means I can hopefully still heal while keeping the blog acne focused. Maybe after, if I get to where I’m trying to go, that the acne niche really will be done for me. And then I can move on.

          Besides – self development is the type of stuff I’d want to talk about anyway if the focus was changed, so ….. the blog will evolve in its own special progression :D I just have to let it flow !

  4. Melissa says

    Hi,
    I love reading your blog- I can absolutly relate to you. When I was about 15 I came down with really bad acne, all over my face, shoulders, front and back. It got so bad I couldn’t find a clear spot in my face. I went to the doctor and she put me on the pill. Sure enough my acne cleared perfectly. But after almost 10 years of it I started to feel “weird”. Sore breasts, really emotional over nothing, just not like “myself”. My skin was picture perfect, I mean it, like in the magazines. So I thought “surely I’m over it now?” and I stopped the pill. It took a few weeks and my body felt great. “Best thing I’ve ever done yay” I tought. Another week and my acne started. First I thought it wasn’t a problem. What are a few pimples compared with taking the pill all the time? But then it got worse and worse and I started to freak out. I also got really bad excma as well. So what wasn’t full af acne was full of excma. I felt awful. But I was determed not to go back on the pill. What followed was a long period of trial and error. Finally now I’m in a resnoable good place. But it wasn’t until I read your blog on how stress relates to acne that I started to realize a pattern as well. Once I new that I started to take better care of myself emotionally. i’m working old problems up, take great care of myself (something I’m not really good at) and guess what? My skin is pretty stable. Not perfect, but with a dab of makeup here and there quite presentable. In a weeks time I’m going to see my boyfriend in Australia. I haven’t seen him in three monts and we’ll be sleeping in the car for 10 days to travel. I’m trying not to freak out about it too much- as i certainly won’t be able to stick to the super healthy diet I’m heaving now. But it’ll be 14 days of freedom and happyness. I am somewhat curious to see what that does to my skin, diet vs. happyness. The good thing is that even if it get really bad- I am confident that I can clear it up again when I’m back, I’ll just have to deal with it while I’m there, and hopefully he won’t take any close up photos of me :) Mel

  5. Heather C. says

    As a 5 foot nothing woman (23) with girl like proportions I completely understand your feeling of wanting to be desired and the mental backlash you give yourself when you feel you don’t measure up. Stop doing that to yourself (easier said than done, i know, but it takes conscious effort at first)! You don’t have to be perfect for everyone because everyone’s idea of ‘perfect’ is different. I personally think it’s our flaws that mark us as individuals and determine who we’ll be compatible with (ex: I love school and all the school supplies and learning that comes with it-lol total nerd but I embrace it. My husband on the other hand is definitly more of the athletic type-not that he isn’t smart, he very much is, he’s just more physical whereas I’m more intellectual. We have been happily together for more than a year now and his strengths support my faults and vice versa). If Luke is It for you (whether it’s on paper or not) then you should focus on how his strengths support you (and vice versa), not that you’re indadequate next to him (because you’re not, just saying). Men and women are meant to COMPLIMENT each other in a romantic relationship-this can go for any type of relationship too.

    You are an awesome person! I’ve been watching your videos and following your blog from its baby days and you are such an inspiration. I originally came across it trying to find a natural cure for acne (haven’t we all seemed to come across it that way lol) and found my other half (ha ha ok, not really but someone I could definitly relate to about the acne thing becuase everytime I’d try to talk to my friends or family about it they always said “it’s not a big deal; I don’t know why it bothers you so much” Ouch). Since then, you have completely helped me “remake” my lifestyle. I have learned so many things from your blog (cooking, emotional health, random bits of information-my favorite so far is the msm cream post bc i have serious hyperpigmentation with a clear face, talk about a cheat, but i’ve been a bit nervous to buy some because “what if I’m let down again” Who else can better relate to this stuff about than you and everyone who visits your site!). You mentioned somewhere that you don’t like being called cute because it makes you feel like a little girl; embrace it, use it and MAKE it work for you. Accept it: You. Are. Cute (stings a little, I know, but you’ll definitly learn how to associate this a woman-cute and not a little girl-cute).

    Important thing is to learn to love yourself. Remember that you are in a relationship with yourself; you’re loving yourself from the inside out with your food and your lifestyle. If we were all the same it would be so blah; we love BECAUSE we are different from one another. I hope (sometime soon) you realize (and accept) what an open, creative, passionate, brave (yes becuase not many would have the cajones to post about their issues with acne on the internet), and just plain caring WOMAN you are. Keep changing lives kid ;)

  6. Autumn says

    From reading about your history, I think that yes stress is your biggest obstacle now but the hormones you took probably set it off to begin with along with the emotions. My acne was set off by going off the pill and I think the damage has been done (too many years now). It is now just working towards recovery, many thanks to your blog. Your blog has been very inspiring and informative fot me. I thought I knew a lot about acne but have learned so much from you. It really does benefit others in so many ways.

    Putting stress on yourself to be perfect is unfair to yourself. There is no such thing. There are ups and downs in life and it is the journey of experience and continually working towards a richer, not more perfect self that we strive for. Like finding this awesome way to contribute and support yourself. It is your own path.

    • Tracy says

      True words Autumn, it really isn’t fair to be so hard on myself, is it? Thank you so much for your support :)

  7. Lily says

    Tracy, you are already free and you are already perfect :) If you were to travel, and just for argument’s sake, got a bad breakout, what’s the worst that could happen? There wouldn’t be an invisible ex in East Africa silently judging you and making you feel small. Don’t let there be! You already know that Luke loves you no matter what your skin looks like, and I’m sure your feelings for him wouldn’t lessen if he suddenly got bad acne. So, it’s a harsh double standard that you would love him all the same but consider yourself to be less lovable if you broke out. You deserve better than that.

    Acne doesn’t make anyone undesirable. Meh, I would totally date a guy with severe acne because that’s simply not what matters. In fact, you already know that most people couldn’t care less. We all think people notice it much more than they do because of something called ‘the spotlight effect’. But it’s easy for us to judge ourselves, because in the mirror all we see is a two-dimensional mug shot of ourselves. That’s not who we are and that’s not what others see! They see a dynamic, 3D imagine of a person full of qualities and worthy of admiration, a truly unique you. They see you as much more than the sum of your parts.

    You are a truly amazing individual Tracy. I look at you with admiration for everything that you’ve achieved, and for all the kindness, compassion and love that you put out with your blog. So please take a moment and feel proud! Do it! :)

    • Tracy says

      Lol – I know. What IS the worst that could happen? Nothing. I could go home and get back on track and fix it. Emotions are so illogical though hahah. Thanks for your kind words Lily :)

  8. Annie says

    Word!

    And, hey, P.S. I traveled for a few months in South America and hardly had a blemish–probably because I wasn’t stressing. It was before I even knew about the diet stuff as it related to skin, but I did avoid cheese at the time (eating disorder diet). I think all the fancy-pants stuff I now eat is great for my skin, but I really think the main serious culprit for my acne is DAIRY. I have developed a belief, given my own experiences, that it is all about avoiding those two things: dairy and beating up my self-esteem… That’s what will keep me ‘Safe.’ There’s probably a little secret combination for everyone, you know? Maybe yours is Self-esteem + Diet (whatever your key diet things are…)?

    • Tracy says

      It’s funny how we get attached to things that we think keep us “safe”. For me, it used to be benzoyl peroxide. Now it’s my diet. Diet is a much harder commitment! I wonder if having these “safety” attachments are beneficial or not… it seems like they may be very helpful in order to keep the stress away (feeling okay because we have our safety net in place), but it doesn’t work if you break the net! Diet is a such a broad safety net that it’s one that is prone to a lot of worry because it’s a pretty easy one to break.

      Hmm this is such an interesting observation. My mental safety net for acne is a healthy diet, but I WISH my safety net was happiness and living stress free. That’s why I do these little tests to see if I can switch it over from diet to happiness, but I’m obviously not ready because deep down, I don’t trust myself that just allowing myself not to worry and truly be happy really means for certain I won’t get bad acne again…. hmmmm…. interrreessting. Thanks Annie

  9. Tracy says

    Hi everyone – Thank you so much for all your thoughtful replies! I’m going away to the island for the evening to dance the night away! I will reply to you all tomorrow :)

  10. Christelle says

    This post has helped shed light on my own life. Thanks.

    That part where you talk about going home after hooking up with your ex, and crying the whole was home… I totally get that. Not that I hooked up with my ex. But, when I was 22, I married my high school sweetheart. He had many flaws, and deep down I knew I could do better. In fact, I should have showed much more pride, and shunned him right from the start. But I have to admit, I felt flattered. Now, in the cold light of day, I’d say he was more interested in the chase than in me, and since I put up a good fight, it kept him on his toes for a long time. I guess deep down, in my heart of hearts, you know, that gut feeling that never lies, I knew he wasn’t right for me. But he was a hottie (yeah, did I mention that! :-) ). And I was flattered that a hottie like him could come after me. I guess I didn’t think I was all that beautiful. I knew I was way smarter than him, but he flattered my ego. It’s hard to admit I was that superficial.

    Except, 2 years into my marriage, he admitted he had had many affairs (12 to be precise, although he couldn’t remember if there had been more… I know, wtf!!!). Not that I wasn’t good in bed, you see, because he reeeeally loved me, and wanted to make it right. I think, had I really loved him, I would have tried to work it out with him, but I had developed feelings for someone else, so I was devastated and confused relieved at the same time when he confessed. I packed my bags and hit the road (and yes, I traveled, as far as I could, for as long as I could, and had as many lovers as possible, and read as many books and listened to as many CDs… you get the picture). But what I had to work on was that weird guilty feeling I had the whole time I was with my ex husband. I knew the whole time I was with him that I could do better, and yet I was still with him, so… that probably meant that deep down I didn’t think I could do better than him.

    Except, if I’m completely open and honest with myself, it’s more complex. Although the obvious explanation for my staying with him would be a lack of self worth, it turns out it was the opposite. Deep down, I think I actually had a pretty high opinion of myself. But he never confirmed that opinion I had of myself. And so my attitude was almost that of someone trying to out prove someone else. I would have loved him to say all those nice things I thought about myself, but he never did, and that’s when the self-worth issues set in. Not before the relationship, but while I was in it. And instead of leaving, I stayed, and felt both proud and shameful at the same time. Whenever I used to cry about it, it was a strange shameful pride that I used to feel. And I had to forgive myself, for being both weak and strong. I’m still working on finding the right balance between weakness and strength, and pride and humility today, but I have found someone who is right for me on a million levels.

    What does this have to do with acne? Well, two weeks into my relationship with my ex-husband, I broke out badly. I’m fairly sure now that the acne was both an epidermic reaction to my toxic relationship, and a way of protecting myself from him, as of course the only thing I wanted to do was stay in my room and hide. I went on the pill straight away, and for the next 4 years my skin was perfect. But 4 years later I decided to quit the pill. All was fine with my skin at first, but then he proposed, and I accepted, and I broke out terribly. I celebrated my engagement with a huge foundation mask on my face (as though I were not myself), and when everyone left my house I bawled for hours in my room. I don’t know whether the breakout was due to coming off the pill, or the emotional prison I felt trapped in, but in all cases I went right back on the Diane and antibiotics. I didn’t want to look reality in the eye back then, but those issues caught up with me i the end. And I still have so much more to work through! Ah, life!

    Anyway, that turned out to be a long post. But I like that everyone feels free to share their experiences here. Good luck with the introspective stuff, it looks like you’re doing really well :-)

    • Tracy says

      Hey Christelle – very interesting insights! I really enjoyed reading that, thank you. It’s so weird what kind of emotional messages our physical bodies can be trying to tell us!

  11. Cindy says

    Hi Tracy,
    How do you do what you do? I would love to have freedom from my job and travel places. Do you have a hard time getting hired again after traveling? And how long do you travel for? How many months do you work? Does your boyfriend do the same with you?

    • Tracy says

      Hi Cindy –
      I love talking about travel :)

      Unfortunately I don’t know much about your situation – for me, I have always taken kind of… entry level short term jobs (waitressing etc), saved money and then travelled, so it’s never really been a big deal to come and go from them. I’ve worked overseas as I travelled as well. I don’t know what sort of job you have – I guess it’s more of a decision if you’ve worked hard to get to where you are and don’t want to leave that. If you don’t really like your job though, why not quit and go travel? What do you have to lose?

      As for having a hard time getting hired again after travel, this question actually boggles my mind – I think it’s a United States thing (are you American?)? My boyfriend, Luke, was actually talking about this the other day – when he worked at the hostel in Budapest, all the Americans would come along (most Americans that came through the hostel were studying abroad and traveling on the weekends), and question him about how he could possibly take all this time to travel and not worry about having gaps in his resume when he went home? In Canada and Australia, and other places, this just isn’t an issue. Employers think it’s cool if you’ve travelled. So I don’t know…. the US is weird, so I don’t know what to say about that.

      For me, I’ve taken two big trips – first one was a one year trip to Australia, New Zealand, and south east asia. I had a working holiday visa for Australia, and worked there to supplement my travel funds. I went by myself on that trip, but you always meet other travellers to hang out with as you go, so you’re never really alone.

      My second big trip was 4 months to Europe (again, I went alone), and I worked in a hostel in Budapest. That’s where I met my boyfriend Luke.

      After that, I did a road trip to California, and later spent another 6 months in Australia, but that was a little different – Luke’s Australian so he was working there to pay off debts, I was working on my website with a tourist visa. It wasn’t as fun fun travel as the first time, it was just working, mostly.

      Anyway, in the future, I’d really like to go on another long term backpacking trip – like anywhere from a few months to a year long (this time with my boyfriend). And this is what I’m stressing about in this post because I worry that doing such a long term trip would mean not eating properly and … yeah. Lead to acne. You get the drift.

  12. lydia says

    I am feeling ALL OF THAT right now, weeks before I leave to backpack through Central America. I’m terrified because of how bad my skin is, I’ve almost cancelled my trip. It infuriates me and devestates me that I let my acne get in the way of incredible experiences. I feel so stuck.

    • Tracy says

      Hey Lydia – I totally your feel pain. I hope that you manage to still go and find a way to have an amazing time.

  13. Laura says

    Thank you for these last couple of posts Tracy, the emotional health aspect of getting over acne (or anything really)seems to be the hardest part and I completely relate and empathise with everything you’ve written here. Knowing others feel the way I do is really helpful and I think you are a very awesome person for doing all you do :)

  14. Yuriy says

    Hey Tracy but you gatta admit there is a good side to having acne! The guest post by Bobby, on your blog… At first when I read the title I was like “yea right, what could that be” But as soon as I started reading I couldn’t agree more with him! The reason I got into eating organic produce, using organic products, exercising a couple times a week is because I have acne.

    You seem to talk a lot about food and dream about eating whatever you want and still have perfect skin. But do you really want that? I admit without a question I would say yes too, but now that I have knowledge on the issue it’s a no. This is a very difficult subject and I hope no one gets offended by this, but it’s more than obvious nowadays why people get sick and develop diseases/cancer and they ask “why me?” In most cases if they paid attention to their lazy lifestyle and crap they eat on a daily basis, top that with toxics used in daily products, things would be different (meaning there’s a huge chance they wouldn’t be sick)I’m not saying that’s the cause of why ALL people get sick and I know there are exceptions and this does sound beyond harsh so I’m sorry if anyone is offended, but in most cases it’s true.

    I do of course believe every “once” in a while you can indulge yourself and eat whatever you desire, but notice they key word. And when that once happens, all in moderation, don’t stuff yourself. We’re human and we can all get carried away sometimes but it’s important to discipline yourself. You know what is healthy and what is edible and what does you good, so don’t fool yourself.

    But the emotional issue really is in your mind. It’s just the way you view the problem. Some people are like “oh, a pimple…” dot some concealer, done. You admit you think it’s stupid and you shouldn’t be stressing out because of a few pimples, so that’s good. But think of it this way… and it’s true… even if you have perfect skin you will still experience some breakouts for whatever reason throughout your life… are you going to beat yourself up every time this happens? No… you just need to accept the fact that acne comes and goes. It may be gone and you’re happy… and if it comes back it’s okay, doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or the way you eat. You could be doing everything right and still have acne here and there and that’s okay. You’re all you’ve got so learn to love yourself, beauty really does come from the inside. People love you and they can see you’re beautiful despite you having acne, but you need to see yourself like that too. I feel the same way about wanting to be beautiful to everyone and being insecure if my skin isn’t at its best. But let’s face it… if someone doesn’t find you beautiful or isn’t attracted to you cause you have a breakout…. no need to go on further, they are not worth having in your life or anywhere around you for that matter. And you did mention before you boyfriend doesn’t give a damn about acne :) and that’s how you know someone does love you. You are beautiful to them no matter how how bad you think you look. Like would you not love your bf anymore if he got acne? It’s the silliest thing on earth.

    I love Reese Witherspoon and this is from one of her old magazine interviews.
    Question from Alison: Even thought I think you are the most beautiful actress in the movies, do you ever wake up or just look in the mirror and not like what you see? How do you get over days like that?
    RW: Well, Alison, when I was about 20, I realized that worrying about how I look is a waste of valuable time that I could be spending trying to better myself. So I resolved to try to do something everyday that is positive for my body, like exercise. Then I know I’m doing the best I can. I can’t beat myself up. And I can get on with more important things!

    And ps I’m 19, not a doctor or anything.
    But I hope this helps :)

    • Tracy says

      Hi Yuriy! Thanks for your thoughtful comment :)

      I totally agree that there are MANY good sides to having acne – hey – look at all this personal growth I’ve gone through (and am still going through!)… and if it weren’t for acne, I wouldn’t have this amazing business I have. And if it weren’t for acne – you’re right – I wouldn’t know how to feed myself properly and wouldn’t know just how important looking after bodies through diet and exercise was to being healthy long term. I am so grateful to acne for many things!

      I love healthy eating and I enjoy doing it when I am at home. Why not? Why not feed myself delicious, healthy foods? And I really don’t have much of a problem with allowing myself the occasional indulgence without guilt. I don’t actually desire to “eat whatever I want” if I have every opportunity to do otherwise, like I do when I’m at home.

      What I’m worried about is my desire to again partake in long-term travel (at some point) vs staying on track with a controlled healthy diet while doing so. What do you do? Trying to control your food while you’re away sounds VERY stressful to me. But does it mean that if I can’t eat healthy while I’m away that I should simply not travel anymore?

      Anyway, I appreciate your helpful words – and that’s cool about Reese Witherspoon! Wise lady!

      • Yuriy says

        Yeah honestly I think there’s no trick… you simply have to choose to eat the healthiest things possible while away. I haven’t traveled much at all to be honest (you look so cute in all the photos by the way, jealous >.< me! haha)It is tempting to try all the different food but again just try to make good choices most of the time. If you are going to eat any heavy meals (acidic type) such as pasta, meat, eggs just balance it out by having it with a salad (alkaline) whenever you can. When you do that it digests much better and is easier on the stomach :)

        Also I do add spirulina, chlorella, wheat and barely grass and msm (all in powder form) regularly to my smoothies or simply water. Those are also very alkaline and are good to take with you when traveling :) You could pick 1 or 2 to take with you (and put the powder in a little jar or a pack, approx the amount you'll be using on the trip instead of taking the whole thing) and it's a good idea to mix with a cup of water before having a heavy meal to again make it digest better :) But do your research before taking those if you haven't already :)

        Ps you should make more videos with your sister when you get a chance! I love you both :) It would just be fun to watch both of you do something fun or do a tag on youtube where you both answer questions about stuff :)

        • Tracy says

          Thanks for the tips friend :)

          Lol – I don’t know what you’re talking about in regards to my sister – I don’t have a sister! Which videos are you referring to? The only person I’ve ever done a video with was Alyssa Evelyn, but she’s English ? :/

          • Yuriy says

            OK LOL please forgive me! I always thought for some reason that Fran from highonhealth was your sister!!!! LOL I thought you mentioned it in one of your videos or something but I guess I was wrong lol I’m so sorry! :D But either way I love you both haha!

  15. Sampson says

    I always knew dairy was kind of a crappy food for the large majority of the world. Even raw dairy gives some people issues and it’s definitely not a perfect food. But one thing I found that I was pleasantly surprised is that I simply DO NOT react to dairy. Even shitty pasteurized dairy! Cheeses too. I don’t seem to have any issues digesting lactose or casein. I don’t break out and I don’t get any digestive distress except maybe my poop takes longer to come out (due to the high calcium of dairy foods.)

    I’ve tested this again and again and I’ve come to the conclusion that I just do not react to dairy in a negative way. For this reason, I see very little reason to keep it out of my diet. It keeps me sane that for me dairy isn’t “off limits.” :)

    • Tracy says

      Hi Sampson – I agree with you – I have also come to think that dairy doesn’t have that much of an effect on my skin one way or the other. And I feel completely fine after eating it. I’m not going to bother drinking a glass of pasteurized milk, but boy do I love cheese, so I’ve been eating my share of crappy supermarket cheese lately because I love it so much!

  16. Tyler says

    In itunes there is a podcast I like listening to (Underground Wellness) it’s free. A particular podcast I just listened to “The End of Self Sabotage” explains probably my biggest set back to clear skin (a warped self image). My self image is messed up and that induces stress when I fail to maintain what I think I should look like and that creates more acne…I need to start getting back into Mind movies and not only focusing about learning more about health/diet but learning to reprogram my unconscious mind which projects my self image on my actual appearance.

  17. Tyler says

    p.s. Ireland seems like the most dreamy place ever, at least to me. Living in the green pastures and smelling the ocean breeze everyday in a relatively quiet environment, free from many distractions of the modern world. Amazing.

  18. Rachel says

    Hey Tracy :) I just want to say how much I love listening to you. LOL. I say this in the most un-creepy way possible! I love watching your videos and reading your blog posts. I dont know what it is but i feel like i can relate to you :) i don’t necessarily even have acne..I mean I have bad skin, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it acne. I think it stemmed from me just doing the wrong things with my body and skin. I started washing my face with honey, and it really makes a difference!! Also we’re from the same neck of the woods! I live on Vancouver island.
    Keep helping everyone learn how to take care of themselves!

    • Tracy says

      Hey fellow west coastie :)
      I’m so happy to hear you like my blog so much and have found benefit – good to hear the honey is working for you!

  19. Chelsea says

    Thank you Tracy for writing this article, I am so glad I read this as I’ve been in such a bad mood because of my mild acne just today. I’ve followed your blog for quite a while and taken the importance of fixing my emotional health quite seriously and repeated to myself everyday “You can do this, you really can, attack and kill your fear”. But today I simply don’t know what happened, I was all of a sudden depressed again and thought “oh f*, now back to square one”.

    I would like to ask you, has it been hard for you to improve your emotional health as well? In my case, improving my diet, physical health etc. are a piece of cake compared to improving my emotional condition. I believe that my bad emotional health is the final boundary from me being completely clear, but it is so hard to get through it and when it sometimes becomes so difficult like today, I just end up being sad again for a day or two.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Tracy says

      Hi Chelsea – yes, improving my emotional health has definitely been the hardest part! Lol, if it was easier I probably wouldn’t still be writing posts like this one hahah.

      But yeah, don’t worry too hard about some minor setbacks… don’t think of it like you are going back to square one. I doubt the journey to emotional health is quite so linear! Anyway, I wish the both of us the best in luck in getting it all sorted out one day! Love ♥

  20. Catalina says

    this is your best post FOR SURE! i understand completely, about everything. commitment, freedom, traveling, everything! i felt like i was reading about myself. i know that eating definitely effects my skin, but its true, its more than that.

    my skin got the best when i was traveling by myself this past few months, and i didn’t eat THAT great, but i gained so much confidence through that freedom and felt like i could take on the world. i even was able to stop wearing makeup. but, everything ends and coming home made my skin so bad. but its gotten better knowing that insecurity is my worst enemy.

    it also makes me feel so much better knowing that you too work only to travel. i too haven’t held a job for over 5 months. i was seriously worried i was living in a fantasy world, but hey, its better than reality i guess.

    • Tracy says

      That is one downside of travel – coming home can feel like a big let down! Also – do what makes you happy, not what people say you should do, or what’s considered “normal”. “Normal” life is not designed for happiness, in my opinion. It’s more designed like: work like a slave, have fun when you’re retired if you’re lucky – ie, you’re still healthy enough, or still alive. Not very fulfilling for many people.

  21. aj says

    hey tracy. I’ve followed you for a while now…
    you have truly been a huge inspiration as I’ve battled my acne for the last couple years. I won’t lie its been a huge struggle. Day after day looking in the mirror and feeling down. Well now is the day i go to england for my vacation.

    I want to make this short cause i know you are a very busy person but i go to england every summer and last year was horrible. the day we were about to leave i had the biggest anxiety attack of my life. it even lead me to attempting to OD because i was in so much inner pain. I promised myself id never let that happen again

    This year I’ve tried so hard to fight my acne. naturally and even from the dermatologist. Its such a hard battle, I’m sure you know.

    Basically, I’m leaving for england today and i want to have fun! i have friends over there….im 18 and i have soo much freedom! but i feel like acne is holding me back. do u have any suggestions for how i can fight this inner pain? i have college in a couple months and i don’t want another repeat.

    I feel like you are one of the only people who can truly help me with my anxiety. thank you <3

  22. Milco says

    Hellooo Tracey!
    My first ever comment.. here it goes.

    That was absolutely wonderful to read :)

    It is now lets see, day 2 of eating super healthy, doing yoga and deep breathing exercises, being un stressful as possible about anything to do with anything, getting tones of sleep, and not irritating my skin or picking it at all (its real hard), and using only all natural things on my face (yumm I just want to eat it all off) My skin is already obviously healing.. Ah! SO happy right now.
    (So I just had to write all this) My mum keeps saying to be today, woah! your skin looks so much better.

    I bought your book roughly a week ago, but only got to reading it a few days (haven’t gotten through the whole thing yet!)
    I have had acne for to long (seems to long to me anyway) About 5 years now, and yep tried ‘everything’, even took some drugs and put icky cream on my skin prescribed by all different doctors for years.. You see though growing up and til now I have always been a really health conscious person. So after awhile I realized all these different creams were doing nothing for me, and researched the drugs enough to know that I didn’t want to kill my immune system and that my body would thank me a whole lot if I stopped taking them. Best decisions I ever made, at those times I also knew that eating well, fresh air, the sun exercising and all that other stuff would clear my skin up, because I had done it twice but soon as my skin cleared up I would go back to my old ways the acne would quickly come back again..

    I wasn’t even sure the holistic/the right way of life was really 100% working, or that I had the time to be bothered with, or even if I could be bothered. (but we should be bothered for our bodies sake, our life’s sake, for so many reasons.) In fact I was so sick of Acne ‘ruining’ my teenage years and feeling like it was holding me back and I just wanted it gone so badly (and I have always been known as a really confident, happy, accepting myself for whole I am kinda person.. but that’s not how I see me most of the time), and I was so close to going on Accutane, but I researched it a lot – and decided I didn’t want to go on a drug they use for cancer patients, and one that would likely have long life affects on my body when there was a better way to do all this.

    So thanks to your book everything just seems like it is going to be so much easier and all the guess work is pretty much taken out of everything. So I don’t have to figure everything out on my own or stress about this or that. I can just take each day as it is, and do the best I can for me and my health.

    I’m not exactly sure what is working for me at the moment, I’m sure its all adding up together, but I’m not sure if its consuming coconut oil, or drinking like a toneee of water, or the manuka honey, or the tea tree oil (Been using tea tree oil for a year or so now though) and all these other things, but hey at least my body seems much happier.

    Oh yeah, Manuka honey is amazinggg! My skin as been so sore and irritated lately this just made it sooo much happier. Except for some reason it is superr expensive in Aus from like $50-$80 a jar of honey. Depending on brand and how active it is. Might have to start ordering it online.

    I also got sick a few days ago (Due to travelling, and a tone of stress, eating badly etc) and woke up today feeling like I’ve barely even been sick, yay for looking after our bodies the right wayy!

    I also got I think the worst break out I have ever had (at least it seems like it) about a week or two ago, and again as I always did was searching for something that would magically heal my skin on the internet, and came across your website, so glad I did and sooo glad my lovely parents bought it for me.

    I’m just wondering though when I’m not at home (its holidays right now)and at boarding school I generally can’t control my diet that well.. (I am vegan and have been for awhile, they cater for this) the only milk I think that is available to me is Soy Milk (supplied by boarding) and also I can’t control my bed time and the time I wake up very well, living in the environment there it generally does get pretty stressful as well, and you also have pretty restricted time to do a lot of things (exercise etc..) but I will try my best to look after my health at boarding school. Just wondering if you have any quick tips you can give me at all?

    Also one last thing!
    I really want to go back packing on my own before I turn 20. Since I just traveled to Europe from Australia and lived there in Romania for around 3 months (with a host family)and it was amazingg! When I told my parents this they just laughed.. Saying “how would I get the money for that?” So how did you manage to travel the world at 18, with enough money to do it, and how did you plan it out? I know you don’t have much time but please just give me anything. I would appreciate it a lot.

    Thank you so much for this amazing website and your wonderful book – You have inspired me and I hope you inspire so many more people. You are a inspiration!

    If you read all this thank you so much. :)

    Milco.

    • Milco says

      Hey Tracey sorry I must be getting annoying, but this post is much more important than that first one :) So feel free to ignore the other one and share some love to this comment…

      Hey Tracey I was wondering if you could help me out.

      I know you probably get hundreds of messages every single day (and they possibly even write that too..) And I also know I can’t write to you every time I have a problem in life or except you to fix anything for me but just this one time I was wondering if you could give me a way of coping with anxiety and a million stressful things to think about.

      I recently brought your book and have had a good read/look but haven’t read the whole thing yet. Which I’ve been planning to do for the last few days but have been caught up in everything so much lately.. I should probably read through the whole book and have a good website before asking questions but when everything is I guess crashing down, what else can you do but right to the one and only Tracey herself.

      So first thing first: I have a school camp coming up and it’s supposed to be the best out of them all… I just got back from overseas on an exchange trip and holidays overseas with my family and am completely and utterly exhausted, even got sick from being so stressed and over tired. Also I have had lots of stress at home, today broke down and cried from it, then quickly pulled myself together again, and have also been really fatigued (which is annoying when I have a lot to get done) and super moody and I’m not sure why, could it be a part of my body having a detox after not looking after it for awhile and avoiding Gluten, Dairy and soy altogether at once.

      Secondly I am too scared to go on this camp because firstly I am going to have no control on it, at all about anything for 11 whole days.. Probably means pretty crap food, not a whole tone of sleep and a lot of other things to and the one thing that scares me the most is not being allowed to take/wear makeup on the camping trip (and I just recently had the worst break out ever in my entire life) that stresses me out the most, no makeup at all, I have so many pimples and scars right now – I just don’t have that type of strength to face people for 11 days with no makeup, not right now. And my self esteem is prettty low right now (sad I know) but I just don’t think I can do it. I’m scared that that and not being in control will stress me out so much that I’ll just won’t cope and get the worst acne ever. The other thing that stressed me out a lot is that I’m going to waste a lot of my parents money by not going on it (if I don’t), and that everyone will be talking about it and I will miss out on a once in a lifetime experience. Any tips?

      Please if you could answer this in the next few days even if its super duper short I don’t have much time left until I leave for camp. Thanks so much Tracey for everything.

      • Tracy says

        Hi Milco – thanks for the comments. I understand how stressed out you must be about going to camp.. and I’m sending out lots of love to you! It’s a really tricky situation… and I know if I was in your position I’d be feeling the same way.

        I think the only thing you can do is just accept the stress and anxiety for what it is – but don’t act on it. You know you’re stressed and scared, you know you care what others think of you and your skin – no matter how much you don’t want to feel that way, you probably are still going to feel that way. So just go to camp, and do all the things you want to do despite all the anxiety. Do what you would do if you had clear skin. Because either way, you are going to camp (unless you do decide to back out and that is your choice), and you also have acne, so you may as well have as good a time as you can despite all the nervousness. If you hide away and don’t participate in activities at camp, it won’t make any difference. You’ll still have acne. It sucks, but just accept that it sucks. (you can look up something called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy if you want more info about this type of approach to anxiety)

        Anyway… I’ll be thinking of you. Lots of love,
        Tracy xox

  23. Emily says

    Tracy,
    I think it’s just amazing how far you’ve come, already! We’re all looking for emotional freedom (freedom from our crazy emotions! They can really work a number on your head-space, sometimes), and it sounds like you’re on the right track. You’re beautiful and smart, and I know sometimes it can be the hardest thing in the world to see these truths in ourselves. Hang in there.
    Side note: you’re my hero! I’ve always been a traveler, and I would LOVE to just pack up and travel anywhere and everywhere. :)

    • Tracy says

      Hi Emily!
      I think I am on the right track and I’ve even made HUGE leaps and bounds towards emotional freedom since I wrote this post (it’s from last year). I’m even feeling ready to travel again without stressing about food and my skin!! Woohoo.

  24. Lauren says

    I can’t even express to you just how inspirational and intelligent you really are. I’ve looked at a lot of your articles and videos, and I can see how much time and effort and care and love you’ve put into all of it. Thank you for articles like these Tracy, these articles really do give me hope! =]

  25. Sam says

    Hey Tracy!

    This article helped me so much in just realizing that I’m not alone and other people have the same fears as me. It still scares me to think that this fear has had and is still having such a huge impact on my life but also that there is hope because other people actually get on the other side of this. I’m very much still in the middle of the nightmare and feeling defeated today. It’s nice to read this and know I’m not the only woman on the planet feeling like I’ll never be the attractive happy person I feel like on the inside. Keep up the good work! I love reading your stuff xxx

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